Musings About ‘Opinions’

It’s a bad habit reading comments on online news articles but it’s one I can’t always stop myself from doing. On the negative side it often leads to despair about humanity. On the positive side though it can work as a positive provocation for sociological considerations. In this case it is a provocation for thinking in particular about knowledge/epistemology, which is a main focus of my PhD research. In particular, concerning the knowledge/epistemology of technoscience but the same questions can be relevant in all areas.

I’m not sure if it’s true that some people feel freer to voice opinion online, especially if it’s anonymous, but it’s obvious that it’s easier to see a whole lot of different opinions clashing in one place online.

I have noted a common trend of these ‘debates’ that happen online often involve the defensive claim from a participant that ‘well, I’m entitled to my opinion’. There is also the tactic used that if their opponents don’t ‘respect their opinion’ this is evidence that said opponents are not playing the game fairly and therefore anything they say is worthless, or something along those lines.

It’s been interesting that in the interviews I’ve done so far, my participants have generally stated things like ‘everyone’s opinions should be respected’, although this was sometimes modified as depending on what people are basing their opinions on (i.e. vague ideas or ‘facts’?).

If someone has no direct experience and has taken no, or very little, time to read up widely on a topic, should they still get to have their opinion respected—even by people who do have direct/lived experience or studied a topic in depth?

Perhaps it’s that when it comes to social topics, people assume their right to opinion does come from direct lived experience. People feel it’s well within their right as someone who has a gender-sex, sexuality, family, children, or whatever, that they can have an opinion, and this opinion should be respected, even about people who have a different gender-sex, sexuality, family, way of raising children or whatever than them. Even when they have no experience or particular knowledge of the specific contexts.

It’s a messy area. What counts as knowledge? Who gets to be more respected for having particular kinds of knowledge? When is an opinion not worth any respect whatsoever? In the particular context of education, it’s worth considering how a teacher responds to students’ opinions. When should they respect an opinion? Should they not respect certain opinions? After all, to not respect a student’s opinion is not necessarily to disrespect them? A particularly contentious example might be a student who expresses their opinion in a classroom that there’s no such thing as human-induced climate change. Whether it’s a science class or an English class or a history class, how should the teacher react? Obviously it becomes much more difficult with issues that are still widely debated about as opposed to areas that are broadly accepted as ‘factually’ settled. I don’t particularly have any answers to this but I do believe it’s necessary to consider such things in relation to my research.


New Materialism + Related Readings

A follow up from my previous post, I thought I’d just post some resources for new materialism that I have read or am reading. I’ll continually add to this post.

Last Updated: 13/2/2015


Alaimo, Stacy; Hekman, Susan (Eds.). (2008). Material Feminisms. USA: Indiana University Press.

Barad, Karen. (2007). Meeting the Universe Halfway: quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. ebrary: Duke University Press

newiconDeleuze and Research Methodologies. (2013). (R. Coleman & J. Ringrose Eds.). Edinburgh Edinburgh University Press.

Dolphijn, R. and I. Van der Tuin (2013). New Materialism: Interviews & Cartographies. Online, Open Humanities Press.

Coole, Diana; Frost, Samantha (Eds.). (2010). New Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics. USA: Duke University Press.

Giffney, Noreen; Hird, Myra J (Eds.). (2008). Queering the Non/Human. England: Ashgate Publishing Company.


newiconAllen, Louisa. (2015). Sexual assemblages: mobile phones/young people/school. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 36(1), 120-132.

Barad, Karen. (2011). Nature’s Queer Performativity. Qui Parle, 19(2), 121-158.

Barad, Karen. (2003). Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter. Signs, 28(3), 801-831.

newiconBoden, Linnea. (2013). Seeing red? The agency of computer software in the production and management of students’ school absences. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 26(9), 1117-1131.

Coleman, Rebecca. (2014). Inventive Feminist Theory: Representation, Materiality and Intensive Time. Women: A Cultural Review, 25(1), 27-45.

Davis, Noela. (2009). New Materialism and Feminism’s Anti-Biologism: A Response to Sara Ahmed. European Journal of Women’s Studies, 16(1), 67-80.

Dolphijn, Rick; van der Tuin, Iris. (2011). Pushing dualism to an extreme: On the philosophical impetus of a new materialism. Contemporary Philosophy Review, 44, 383–400.

newiconFox, Nick J.; Alldred, Pam. (2014). New materialist social inquiry: designs, methods and the research-assemblage. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 1-14.

Fraser, Mariam. (2002). What is the matter of feminist criticism? Economy and Society, 31(4), 606-625.

newiconHinton, Peta. (2014). ‘Situated Knowledges’ and New Materialism(s): Rethinking a Politics of Location. Women: A Cultural Review, 25(1), 99-113.

Hinton, Peta. (2013). The Quantum Dance and the World’s ‘Extraordinary Liveliness’: Refiguring Corporeal Ethics in Karen Barad’s Agential Realism. Somatechnics, 3(1), 169–189.

Hird, Myra J. (2004). Feminist Matters: New materialist considerations of sexual difference. Feminist Theory, 5(2), 223-232.

Jackson, Alecia Youngblood. (2013). Making matter making us: thinking with Grosz to find freedom in new feminist materialisms. Gender and Education, 25(6), 769-775.

Juelskjaer, Malou. (2013). Gendered subjectivities of spacetimematter. Gender and Education, 25(6), 754-768.

Juelskjaer, Malou; Schwennesen, Nete. (2012). Intra-active Entanglements – An Interview with Karen Barad. Kvinder, Kon & Forskning, 10(1-2), 10-24.

Kleinman, Adam. (2012). Intra-actions. Mousse, 34, 76-81.

Lorenz-Meyer, Dagmar. (2014). Reassembling Gender: On the Immanent Politics of Gendering Apparatuses of Bodily Production in Science. Women: A Cultural Review, 25(1), 78-98.

newiconMasny, Diana. (2013). Rhizoanalytic Pathways in Qualitative Research. Qualitative Inquiry, 19(5), 339–348.

Mazzei, Lisa A. (2013). Materialist mappings of knowing in being: researchers constituted in the production of knowledge. Gender and Education, 25(6), 776-785.

newiconPostma, Dirk. (2012). Education as Sociomaterial Critique. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 20(1), 137-156.

newiconPuar, Jasbir. (2013). ‘I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess’: intersectionality, assemblage, and affective politics. Meritum, 8(2), 371-390.

Taylor, Carol A.; Ivinson, Gabrielle. (2013). Material feminisms: new directions for education. Gender and Education, 25(6), 665-670.

newiconThiele, Kathrin. (2014). Pushing Dualisms and Differences: From ‘Equality versus Difference’ to ‘Nonmimetic Sharing’ and ‘Staying with the Trouble’. Women: A Cultural Review, 25(1), 9-26.

newiconTimeto, Frederica. (2011). Diffracting the rays of technoscience: a situated critique of representation. Poiesis Prax, 8, 151-167.

Van der Tuin, Iris. (2008). Deflationary Logic: Response to Sara Ahmed’s `Imaginary Prohibitions Some Preliminary Remarks on the Founding Gestures of the ”New Materialism”’. European Journal of Women’s Studies, 15(4), 411-416.

newiconWalker, Rachel Lowen. (2014). The Living Present as a Materialist Feminist Temporality. Women: A Cultural Review, 25(1), 40-61.

Critical of New Materialism

Ahmed, Sara. (2008). Some Preliminary Remarks on the Founding Gestures of the ‘New Materialism’. European Journal of Women’s Studies, 15(23), 23-39.

Bruining, Dennis. (2013). A Somatechnics of Moralism: New Materialism or Material Foundationalism. Somatechnics, 3(1), 149–168.

Sullivan, Nikki. (2012). The somatechnics of perception and the matter of the non/human: A critical response to the new materialism. European Journal of Women’s Studies, 19(3), 299–313.

PhD Confirmation: Passed!

This Monday I had my confirmation seminar and am happy and relieved to have been passed right away. I had positive feedback about my research proposal, which is great. Many times I have wondered if I am taking on too much, if my research is going to be too ‘against the norm’ to be accepted at all, so getting positive feedback was gratefully received. That’s not to say that I’m no longer concerned and I’m well aware I’ll have many more challenges to be faced yet! However, I’ve cleared the first big PhD hurdle and that certainly makes a difference, especially when I’m someone who has always struggled with public speaking. I can now focus my attention on the next step, which will be figuring out all the minute details of my data collection plan and gaining ethical clearance. I also want to focus some attention on such matters as finding more researcher contacts and thinking about possible journal articles and upcoming conferences etc. Research should not be done in a vacuum but as I am in a sort of uncommon research space it’s been difficult to find others who share my interests.

For my next blog post, I’m planning on writing a bit more on ‘new materialism’ and why I’ve chosen it as my research framework.


I’ve created this PhD blog for a couple of reasons. One is to reach out to the research community, to hopefully make contacts in my areas of interest and to share some of my thoughts. The other reason is to use this as a way to track my own progress. I’m just beginning my second year and my path has been far from straight forward. I began my PhD with the intention of researching masculinities but have now ended up in the area of  ‘gender-sex’ (my term that I will explain further about later), science, education and ethics.

Before I get into that though, it might be useful to first explain a bit about who I am.

My name is Blue Mahy and I’m based in the faculty of education at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. I have a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from Deakin University. My major was professional and creative writing, with minors in communications and literary studies.

In my undergrad I became very interested in learning about gender, sexuality, queer theory, poststructuralism and other similar areas. After taking a unit called Men and Masculinities I became particularly interested in this subject and therefore it became my intention to carry this interest into doing a PhD. However, my readings and suggestions made by my supervisors led me onto a somewhat different path.

Today, my intention is to conduct research with pre-service teachers, to examine the relationships between gender-sex, science, education and science-ethical issues, primarily using conceptual ideas from the ‘new materialism’ paradigm, especially those from theorist Karen Barad.

So, welcome to my blog and please get in contact with me if we share similar interests!